COLUMN: Dealing with wildlife (especially Nelson geese) is complicated

From Nelson city councillor Robin Cherbo

Wildlife in municipalities can be of concern. Presently we have everything in Nelson from skunks, raccoons, bears and geese, just to name a few.

While a lot of people are concerned with skunks, they usually do not spray unless startled. It is usually human caused by cars or a dog as skunks go about their business at night. Raccoons on the other hand can be aggressive if approached, especially with their young or cornered but usually go about their business at night and are rarely seen.

Bears can be a problem and are aggressive with their cubs around. As well as we all know, they can become garbage bears or if attracted to fruit trees in neighbourhoods.

A lot of these issues can be solved somewhat if people don’t let their dogs run loose and don’t leave stinky garbage out and/or on the curb before pick-up times. Fruit should be picked off the trees and the ground before it becomes an attractant to all wildlife.

Then there is our Canada geese, which a lot of people like to see in the water around Nelson. Sprinkling helps, but unfortunately with no rain to further wash the area there can still be a problem of ‘doo-doo’ on the Lakeside playing fields.

The Centre for Wildlife Damage Management has written that “Canada geese presence at parks and golf courses raised the question of the potential of disease transmission to humans via contact with goose droppings (Converse et al. 1999). The droppings of Canada geese have been found to carry a significant number of diseases, however, only a few are of significant concern to humans.”

We do share concerns about the geese and their poop. While the geese are not protected under the Federal Ministry of the Environment we cannot shoot the geese in the city limits. Around the municipal airport, the Nelson Pilots Association (NPA) has checked with other airports and found that geese do not like tall grass, which we have allowed grow around the city airport, but of course that is not an option around the play fields.

At the airport the NPA have also used bear bangers to chase geese, and other methods such constant varied noises, but the geese get use to these methods and just fly up and land again farther away.

We have had a local man with a dog to chase geese off the playing fields but again the geese just fly up and land again somewhere else on the grass. There are also flashing laser lights which are used in farming areas, but they cannot be used around the public areas because of the possibility of eye injuries.

The playing fields are also part of the Regional District of Central Kootenay Recreation Commission, which also looks for solutions.

Another thing that attracts geese to the area is that tourists and city residents feed them, which comes under the enforcement of the Federal Ministry of Environment regulations not to feed water fowl, but they do not have the staff to police Nelson and area. As well, the local geese do not migrate south any more, as climate change has produced warmer winters.

Another option is to addle the eggs (temporarily remove fertilized eggs from the nest, terminate embryo development, and place the egg back in the nest). But the geese do not just nest in the City of Nelson but also across the West Arm in the Regional District.

The Okanagan Goose Management Plan was developed by a committee involving the Cities of Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Osoyoos and the District of Summerland. To have a management plan in our area, a committee of communities from around Kootenay Lake would need to be established.

The program involves scare tactics, addling and habitat modification. The City of Nelson uses scare tactics but has not engaged in addling.

Dealing with all wildlife is a complicated issue for all in Nelson and area, of which no one has been able to find a long term workable solution. As well it is not just a City of Nelson problem; all municipalities with similar problems have tried a number of different methods without much success.

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